The US Senate has voted to take first steps towards new gun legislation.
Lawmakers voted to speed passage of a bipartisan package of measures to toughen federal gun laws.
They agreed to a procedural measure that will allow the chamber to consider and vote on a bill this week. If that is passed, it will be the country’s first major gun legislation in decades.
The legislation includes provisions that would help states keep guns out of the hands of those deemed to be a danger to themselves or others and close the so-called “boyfriend loophole” by blocking gun sales to those convicted of abusing unmarried partners.
However, the bill stops short of raising the age limit from 18 to 21 on purchases of automatic assault weapons.
The gunmen in both Texas and New York were 18-year-olds who used assault rifles they bought themselves.
Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer said he expected the bill to pass this week, while senator Chris Murphy, the lead Democrat in talks to craft a legislative deal with Republicans, called it “the most significant piece of anti-gun-violence legislation Congress will have passed in 30 years”.
Mr Murphy added: “This is a breakthrough. And more importantly, it is a bipartisan breakthrough.”
With the 100-seat Senate split evenly between the two parties, the legislation will need support from at least 10
Republicans to pass a procedural hurdle.
Fourteen Republicans joined all 50 Democrats to move towards voting on the legislation.
The biggest gun lobby in the country, the National Rifle Association, said on Twitter it opposed the legislation because it could be abused to restrict lawful gun purchases.
The politically powerful group’s statement could affect how many Republicans vote on the measure.
A total of 19 schoolchildren and two of their teachers were shot dead in a murderous rampage by high school dropout Salvador Ramos at the Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, last month.
Just days earlier, a gunman live-streamed a “racially-motivated” mass shooting that killed 10 at a supermarket in Buffalo.
The incidents sparked new calls for changes to gun legislation that in the ten years since America’s deadliest school shooting – at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut where 26 were killed – have changed very little.